European governments fear the joined effort to persuade U.S. President Donald Trump to continue to certify the Iran nuclear deal may have failed and are now looking for other ways to try to salvage the two year-old agreement focusing on U.S.Congress which will have two months to decide whether to reimpose nuclear-related sanctions, The Guardian reports.
Fresh sanctions could in turn trigger Iranian withdrawal and a ramping up of its now mostly latent nuclear programme, taking the Middle East back to the brink of another major conflict.
In a postmortem teleconference last week, the political directors from the foreign ministries of UK, France and Germany agreed to plan for the worse and marshall European political resources for a potential rearguard action lobbying in Congress.
“The E3 are keen not to make it all about the president’s decision. Even if the decision is not to certify, we will want to see on what terms he passes it to Congress,” one diplomat said.
The U.S. Senate currently appears delicately balanced on the issue, with almost all Republicans and Democrats likely to vote by party line. The majority leaders in the Senate and the House are reluctant to get bogged down in gruelling debate on an issue they believe the president should decide.
“Congress doesn’t want to get in the middle of this and own it,” said Ilan Goldenberg, a former state department official now at the Centre for a New American Security.
Few days back, Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif has warned the only way to avoid the collapse of the historic nuclear accord was for Europe to oppose and defy any U.S. imposition of sanctions on Tehran.
In an interview published by The Guardian, Zarif said Iran would develop much more advanced nuclear technology – though not for weapons purposes – if Europe followed the United States in returning to a sanctions regime.
“Europe should lead,” he said during an interview in New York. The deal, agreed in 2015 between Iran and six world powers – the United States, China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany – lifts economic sanctions put in place in 2005 in exchange for curbs to Tehran’s nuclear programme.
On October 15, Trump is due to testify to Congress whether Tehran is complying with the deal and whether it remains in the United States’ interests to stick by it. If he decides it is not, it could open the way for U.S. lawmakers to reimpose sanctions, leading to the potential collapse of the agreement.
“I think he has made a policy of being unpredictable, and now he’s turning that into being unreliable as well. My assumption and guess is that he will not certify and then will allow Congress to take the decision,” Zarif said.
He said that if the United States scuppers the deal, the decision would prove counter-productive.
“The deal allowed Iran to continue its research and development. So we have improved our technological base. If we decide to walk away from the deal we would be walking away with better technology. It will always be peaceful… but we will not observe the limitations that were agreed on as part of the bargain,” he said.
Zarif said “walking away” was one of the options being considered by Tehran.
“If Europe and Japan and Russia and China decided to go along with the United States, then I think that will be the end of the deal,” he said.